WASL: Kids’ results are up

Give South Whidbey students an “A” for improvement.

According to recently released results of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, or WASL, more of the district’s fourth- seventh- and 10th-graders met state standards in 2003-2044 than in the previous school year. In most categories and at all grade levels tested, South Whidbey students nearing and, sometimes, exceeding state averages.

Fourth-graders from the Intermediate School marched past their peers from 2002-03 in all three test areas — reading, writing and math. A big jump occurred in fourth-grade math from the 49 percent who met the state standard in 2002-03, up to 56 percent this year. Also this year, 72 percent of fourth-graders passed the reading section of WASL, seven percent more than the previous year. The test’s writing assessment saw a 3-percent improvement over the previous year. Yet, test results in all three areas still lag a couple points behind state averages.

Tenth-graders at South Whidbey High School also improved in two areas, reading and writing, with just a 1.3 percent drop in math from last year. The school’s principal, Mike Johnson, in spite of that he is pleased with results.

“We continue to make steady improvement,” he said.

Tenth-grade reading and writing saw 80.4 percent of 10th-graders meeting the standard, well above state numbers. The math average was 12 percent higher than the state.

Johnson said teachers at the high school are continuing to work with curriculum and with individual students who are not meeting the standards.

Among Bayview School 10th-graders, 60 percent were above the state average of 55.8 percent in writing. They also improved over the school’s last year’s results in reading by 13 percent, but 10 percent fewer met the standard in math.

At Langley Middle School, the number of seventh-graders who met the reading standard jumped by 12 percent. They were also better in math than last year’s seventh-grade class, with 4 percent more meeting the standard. There was almost no change in the grade’s writing numbers.

School principal Greg Willis said he is pleased with the numbers.

“Our math percentages are steady and reading is good,” Willis said. “Our goal is to keep steadily increasing the numbers of students who achieve.”

This year, for the first time, WASL exams also included a voluntary fifth-, eighth- and 10th-grade science test, which will be mandatory in 2004-05. Removed from the WASL this year was the listening component.

The WASL has been given every spring since 1997 to the state’s fourth-, seventh- and 10th-graders and reflects what students know based on the state’s Essential Academic Learning Requirements. Students either pass or fail the test. The results are not used as college entrance criteria.

The WASL is mandated by the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and is backed by federal measures. It is one component of the “No Child Left Behind” education act, which requires schools nationwide to prove they are making “adequate yearly progress.”

The class of 2008 will be the first group of high school seniors required to pass 10th-grade WASLs tests in reading, math and writing in order to graduate. Students will have four chances to retake all or portions of the 10th-grade WASL.

Critics of the test say that teachers should not be teaching to the tests. To that criticism, Mike Johnson said he believes educators in the district are not teaching to the test, but rather teaching to state standards.

Parents can ask have their children excused from taking the test. Doing so can effect the final scoring average for a school. For every student who doesn’t take the test, a zero is tallied into the results.

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